Libya Could Be the Scene of a Showdown between Egypt and Turkey

July 21 2020

Last week, the Libyan legislature formally requested Egypt’s military intervention in its civil war—a request its Egyptian counterpart assented to yesterday. Cairo has for some time supported the Libyan legislature, and the warlord Khalifa Haftar, in their ongoing conflict with the country’s president and his Government of National Accord (GNA). Simultaneously, Turkey has been increasing its support for the GNA. Jonathan Spyer describes this explosive situation:

A cluster of additional international players are gathered around the two warring sides. The GNA has the additional support of Qatar and Italy. Haftar, meanwhile, enjoys the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, and Bashar al-Assad’s Syria.

The events in Libya reflect the depth and intensity of one of the key strategic rivalries in the Middle East. This is the contest between the camp consisting of Turkey, Qatar, and a variety of Muslim Brotherhood-associated forces in the region, including Hamas’s Gaza fiefdom, and the rival [entente] of Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. There are, of course, other elements engaged in the complex Libyan strategic space. But these two camps are the central players. [The] GNA in Tripoli and Haftar and his allies in the eastern part of the country are their respective proxies.

This rivalry is not solely geostrategic. It relates also to modes of governance. Turkey had hoped to emerge at the head of a bloc of democratically elected Islamist governments in the region, following the outbreak of the Arab Spring in 2010. For a while, things seemed to be going well. The election of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt in 2011 was the high point. Turkey strongly backed the government of Mohamed Morsi. It similarly threw its weight behind the Sunni Islamist insurgents in Syria. For a moment, the prospect of a bloc of Sunni Islamist governance stretching from Ankara to Cairo (and incidentally, threatening Israel from north and south) looked like a real possibility.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Egypt, Hamas, Libya, Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship